4 Tips for Using Checks and Money Orders Safely
You can protect yourself and your finances from scammers just by learning how money orders and paper checks work and then employing strategies that will thwart scammers. The goal of this post is to get you pointed in the right direction.
To that end, here are four tips for using checks and money orders safely:
1. Don’t Leave Them in Your Mailbox
Do you write checks and then leave them in your mailbox with the outgoing mail? If you do, stop. What was once a safe practice, is now quite dangerous. Leaving checks in your outgoing mail is an open invitation to identity theft.
You may think a check written to a business is useless to a thief. It is not. The thief doesn’t want the check itself, he or she only wants the information found on it. Remember that your personal check contains your name, address, bank account number, and routing number.
Instead, should you need to pay a bill, you can take care of that online either by providing your bank routing and account number to the biller itself or you can use third party billers or companies like MoneyGram if there is no online payment option available.
2. Don’t Use Exterior Drop Boxes
Car repair shops, apartment complexes, and other businesses are known to use exterior drop boxes for making after hours payments. Yet they are as dangerous as checks in your mailbox. All it takes is a creative thief to pull checks and money orders out of the box. Then they have your personal information.
3. Don’t Trade Money Orders for Cash
Over the years there have been a number of scams involving perpetrators contacting victims and asking them to exchange money orders for cash. The victim receives money orders in the mail and is expected to convert them to cash or checks sent to the perpetrator. It’s not until days later that the victim discovers the money orders are fraudulent.
Anyone willing to trade money orders for cash could just as easily go cash the money orders himself or herself. Any such offer is probably a scam, so don’t fall for it.
4. Cash Money Orders Right Away
If you receive a money order for a legitimate purpose, don’t hang onto it forever. Cash it as quickly as you can – preferably through the same entity that issued it. If you get a Western Union Money order for example, go to your nearest Western Union store and cash it. Cashing money orders right away reduces the risk of being ripped off by a scam.
Checks and money orders are good tools for spending money. If you use them regularly, do so wisely and responsibly. Do everything you can to protect yourself. Otherwise, you may find yourself being scammed.